Splashing in Puddles

The dizzy temperatures of early July are but a distant memory now that the more familiar autumnal weather has settled into our lives. But as the climate changes, it is not all bad news. The rain has not only provided welcome relief to our gardens but also a source of joy for the children.

As I popped out the door of my office one day this week I was distracted by a group of children in a puddle. One was talking to the others about a blue beetle which she had seen and, once the beetle was safe, the children proceeded to stomp and kick the water. The shrieks of excitement could be heard across the school grounds.

As adults, when we see puddles we generally try to avoid them. When children see puddles, many seem magnetised towards them, taking the opportunity to splash, jump and kick with water cascading everywhere. Their desire to do so is driven by their natural instinct to explore and discover using their senses and actions. By doing this they build a store of knowledge about the physical world. Through this and similar outdoor activities children master essential life skills such as problem-solving, the ability to focus and respond to changing contexts, and decision-making. In other words, exposure to natural settings enhances their cognitive development.

A child’s neurological system is naturally designed to seek out the sensory input they need to develop into a strong and capable individual. If a child is spinning in circles just for fun, it is because they need that sensory input. Movement and physical play facilitate the development of new connections (synapses) within brain cells and the overall organisation of the brain. As these connections develop, a child’s fine and gross motor skills, socialisation, personal awareness, language, creativity, problem solving and learning ability are improved. This is the reason they need to climb the trees, jump on the bed, run through the woods and splash in puddles. These are all natural and necessary experiences that will encourage their cognitive skill development.

Watching a child play in puddles is fascinating. Through sensory feedback they are answering question after question. What happens if I swoop my legs through this puddle slowly? What if I move my legs faster? If I stomp lightly, how high will the water splash? What if I stomp harder? What will happen if I jump with both feet from a small curb?

Children are naturally inclined towards the things in nature that are helpful for their development and puddles are readily available. As adults we should encourage activities such as kicking leaves, rolling down a bank and jumping in puddles, for example, to facilitate the overall development of children and prepare them for life challenges to come. Rather than say “no” to everything physical they attempt, we should provide them a safe environment to explore and enjoy nature. Rain showers create a lot of puddles to splash in and every child deserves a good pair of boots. Jumping into puddles may not necessarily lead to a top university but the joy they find in doing so is a perfect demonstration of how incredibly beautiful childhood can be. Is that not, after all, what childhood is all about?